Plastic Recycling Is A Dead-End Street
Most plastic simply cannot be recycled, a new Greenpeace USA report concludes. Circular Claims Fall Flat Again, released today, finds that U.S. households generated an estimated 51 million tons of plastic waste in 2021, only 2.4 million tons of which was recycled. The report also finds that no type of plastic packaging in the U.S. meets the definition of recyclable used by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy (EMF NPE) Initiative. Plastic recycling was estimated to have declined to about 5–6% in 2021, down from a high of 9.5% in 2014 and 8.7% in 2018. At that time, the U.S. expod millions of tons of plastic waste to China and counted it as recycled even though much of it was burned or dumped. By EMF NPE standards, an item must have a 30% recycling rate to receive the “recyclable” classification. Two of the most common plastics in the U.S. that are often considered recyclable – PET #1 and HDPE #2, typically bottles and jugs – fall well below the EMF NPE threshold, only achieving reprocessing rates of 20.9% and 10.3%, respectively. For every other type of plastic, the reprocessing rate is less than 5%.